Tim Firmager checks into Danesfield House Hotel and Spa to discover how guests can relax in this Small Luxury Hotels property in Buckinghamshire.
Danesfield House Hotel and Spa, set on the river Thames in Buckinghamshire is just over an hour from London by public transport or car. Set in 65 acres of parkland this boutique property, part of the Small Luxury Hotels group, offers rest and relaxation including at the Spa Illuminata. We at Vada decided to check in to find out how this suits a luxury, LGBT-friendly break.
Danesfield House is a Grade II listed house that, in its latest guise was completed in 1901. It has a history with World War II, having been a RAF Reconnaissance and Photography Section. This is evident through the property and those interested in historic buildings will find information and plaques dotted throughout the hotel.
The hotel holds 79 rooms and suites across 10 categories. Within its grounds, guests can discover the Italian and water gardens, tennis court and a croquet lawn. What impresses immediately though is the driveway up to the property and the entrance through the tower to the first courtyard. Once inside there is a grand and welcoming lounge with open fireplace. We noted can be used for private functions; however the rest of the time is an ideal place for guests to relax with a tea and catch up with the news, work or social media.
The reception area holds two desks, both of which we found were usually manned throughout our stay and staff were always polite, helpful and efficient. We arrived about 40 minutes before the official check-in time (3pm) and as our room wasn’t quite yet ready the reception staff happily let us drop our bags and explore the grounds (and the unusual-shaped topiary that wouldn’t look out of place in Prowler). On returning to reception, we were shown to our room and bags followed us shortly afterwards. Valet parking is also offered from reception, else the car park is a couple of minutes’ walk. We took a taxi from the nearby town of Marlow, which is an easy 10 minute drive.
During both breakfast room service, and dinner, service from waiting staff continued high levels of professionalism leaving guests plenty of discretion.
Vada rating: 5 / 5
We stayed in a Stable suite (room 138). All stable rooms and suites are located in the separate ‘stable courtyard’, giving a private, more intimate and mini-community feel within the Danesfield Hotel complex.
Guests enter into the spacious living room, which has more than ample space for a sofa and coffee table, two other sets of small tables with two chairs, the minibar (with complimentary free water only), and a large TV. Unfortunately this TV wasn’t working; however the ones in the bathroom and bedroom were.
The bathroom has a shower unit big enough for two with both rainfall and handheld head, digitally controlled with a temperature setting from outside and within the shower unit. This is particularly handy to get the water to the perfect temperature before entering. An impressively large separate bath and double sink impressed. Damana products were the amenity brand of choice, and whilst there was nothing wrong with these, we could see a choice such as L’Occitane being a superior alternative.
The bedroom, even larger than the lounge provides a huge Super King sized bed. It was made from two smaller beds pushed together as is often the case (to allow the hotel flexibility of selling rooms as ‘twin’ or ‘double’), but the topping mattress was very comfortable and gave no indication of the structure below. Plenty of wardrobe space for two people was provided, a writing desk, and a TV unit is at the foot of the bed with a remote control to raise and lower the screen into it: a stylish method to keep the TV hidden.
Wifi worked well and we were able to stream YouTube without any issues. All lighting for the suite is controlled by a panel in each room with about 20 buttons. This did take some time to play with and work out the various combinations. Some may find this bothersome, but others will enjoy the endless permutations of mood settings.
Vada rating: 4.5 / 5
There is a single restaurant at Danesfield House, split into three areas: The Oak Room, The Orangery, and The Terrace for when the weather is warm enough. Danesfield House also boasts a cocktail bar adjacent to The Restaurant. We didn’t make use of this, although it does appear to be an ideal location to enjoy an aperitif before dinner.
Executive Chef Billy Reid chooses the seasonal menu, which focuses on using seasonal produce. For dinner we opted for the Oak Room location. A three-course dinner for two with a bottle of house wine was included in our Autumn Escape package. We did discover an unnecessarily pretentious water menu within the wine list. We ignored this and simply asked for a bottle of sparkling water.
The considerable food menu gave rise to a long deliberation, but deliberate we did eventually starting with the Crapaudine Beetroot with Goats Cheese Mousse with Honey and Mustard (£12.50), and Scallops with Pumpkin and Hollandaise sauce (£20). The beetroot starter was a delicious autumnal balance of gentle sweetness from the beets against the saltiness from the smooth mousse. The sizeable scallops were cooked to perfection and inviting to eat topped with tomato pieces, fresh basil sprigs and capers.
Main courses arrived in the form of Venison with fondant and blackberries (£31.50) and Organic salmon, with Girolle mushrooms and creamed leeks (£28). During the Autumn months, both delicious, warming options. We opted for sides of Heritage carrots with thyme and big chips (both £4.50).
Having devoured the previous two courses, we had very little room left for dessert. Moreover the choice is so tempting at the restaurant at Danesfield House, it is impossible to say no. All priced at £10, we reluctantly (or perhaps very willingly) chose to share a dark chocolate ‘torte’ with cherries and cherry ripple. This turned out to be so much more. Served with chocolate sauce, chocolate rubble, soaked dark cherries, cherry sauce and ice cream, this was beyond what we had expected to be a deconstructed dark forest gateau.
Breakfast is also served in the same rooms, but we opted to have this delivered to our room. This does not cost extra if breakfast is included in the room rate. Hot food arrived hot, with recently brewed coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice arriving on time into our room. We were impressed with this service, and allowed for a romantic breakfast-in-bed start to the day.
Vada rating: 5 / 5
As part of our package, we had a Lava Shell Massage in the Silver Birch VIP Suite, a dual treatment room, to enjoy the treatment side-by-side with your partner. We found absolutely no awkwardness or unwelcomeness being a gay couple within Spa Illuminata at Dansfield House. Moreover the Lava Shell massage treatment really did target tension points and knots in muscles, from our experienced masseuses. Combined with a private sauna (within the VIP suite) adding to the romance, this left us feeling entirely relaxed, invigorated with no signs of aches and pains.
The main area of Spa Illuminata includes a 20m swimming pool, large jacuzzi, and a further sauna and steam room. What we like about the spa is that whilst it is family friendly, there are specific hours where children are permitted meaning adults can relax with disruption or responsibility. The spa opens up onto a small terrace, overlooking the manicured gardens, so in summer this would be a place of tranquility.
A small point of improvement is the fact that when spa guests want to rehydrate they have to trek back into the changing rooms. Having water, or better yet infused waters available near the poolside would be much more convenient.
Vada rating: 4.5 / 5
Bed & Breakfast room rates in a Courtyard room start at £279 per night. We found the prices for dinner higher than the average from London, but not unreasonable for a special weekend away. The package we opted for (Autumn Escape in a Stable Suite) costs £1,029 per night and includes accommodation in a Stable Suite, use of Spa Illuminata facilities, a 50 minute spa treatment for both guests, breakfast, 3 course dinner and a Decleor welcome gift. We would also recommend either of the (cheaper) Philippe Starck designed rooms.
We did not feel mal-à-l’aise or concern at being an openly gay couple at any point during our stay at Danesfield House. What we enjoyed the most was the holistic treatment menu at the spa, and the professional service received, in fact the service throughout our stay at Danesfield House. We appreciated the modern, well-appointed accommodation, and superior quality of the menu from Billy Reid. Our only point of contention was the lighting controls, which we would have preferred to be simpler, but that is our preference. We suggest overlooking some of the pretence in the restaurant menu, and diners will find well executed dishes.
As an elegant location for a romantic break, within easy distance of London, we definitely recommend Danesfield House Hotel and Spa as a boutique destination for LGBT couples.
Vada rating: 4.5 / 5
Danesfield House is located at Henley Road, Marlow-on-Thames, SL7 2EY.
For full information about the Autumn Escape package and options, and other offers to book, visit danesfieldhouse.co.uk.